“You can’t even look at Rama’s body. Your cheeks are just making sounds. You were already embarrassed by the strength from the creator. Now be wise and don’t further embarrass yourself.” (Janaki Mangala, 60)
citai na sakahu rāma tana gāla bajāvahū |
bidhi basa balau lajāna sumati na lajāvahu ||
Aside from the issue of politeness, it is not considered wise to brag, to be overly vocal about your abilities, because it really serves no purpose. If you can back up what you’re saying, if your boasting legitimately speaks to your strengths, you should prove yourself in the subsequent exercise. What good does your boasting do? If I am a carpenter capable of cutting wood to match the specifications of the job in question, whether or not I talk a lot beforehand makes no difference in the final outcome. It is said in many places in the Vedic literatures that a true hero doesn’t speak much; he lets his work do the talking.
“My dear King Jarasandha, those who are heroes do not talk much. Rather, they show their prowess. Because you are talking much, it appears that you are assured of your death in this battle.” (Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 49)
There is also the issue of failure, which is more often the cause for the bragging. The person fond of boasting speaks so much because they are unsure of their ability. In talking, they hope to put down the opposition, to instill some fear in them. If the person were actually confident of their abilities, they would have no need to talk much. Therefore in either circumstance, avoiding bragging is a good idea. For many kings assembled in Janakpur a long time ago, the recommendation to remain free from bragging was made because of the imminent defeat to arrive from the strong hand of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who was on the scene as the innocent, yet beautiful youth of the Raghu dynasty, the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha. Known by the name of Rama, the delight of mother Kausalya was seated in the assembly alongside His younger brother Lakshmana and the exalted sage Vishvamitra.
There was talk amongst the assembled princes because no one could keep their eyes off of Rama and Lakshmana. The brothers were just that beautiful. They had such delicate features that people couldn’t imagine how they were sons of a powerful and capable fighter like Dasharatha. In those times the people most capable of defending the innocent took charge of the government. This fact reveals the primary aim of government. There will always be aggressors in society, regardless of the time period. The strong shouldn’t be able to dominate the weak just because of their superiority in strength. A person has a right to the property that they lawfully acquire, and the innocent should not be harassed without cause. Therefore the government’s primary duty is to provide protection against the aggressors, not to be the aggressors themselves.
Though Rama and Lakshmana were still too young to take an active role in the administration, they nevertheless proved their ability to defend the innocent. They were with Vishvamitra because of the attacks he and the other sages in the forest of Dandaka constantly faced from the evil night-rangers, who were known as the Rakshasa species based on their hideous features. The night-rangers would change their shapes at will and attack during the dark hours when it was difficult to see. They had only one thing in mind: eliminate the influence of the pious. The end justified the means, so they didn’t care what codes of conduct they violated along the way.
Rama, for His part, was always attentive to pious principles. He and Lakshmana went to the forest because Vishvamitra asked them to. They got the permission of their parents first, and they never hesitated in performing their duty. Sometimes the attention to piety gives rise to doubt. How do we know what the right decision is in a particular area? For Rama, the first dilemma came from the attacking night-ranger named Tataka. She was a female, and kshatriya warriors never battled against females. Vishvamitra repeatedly instructed Rama to not pay attention to the gender, as Tataka had no concern for fighting fairly. Despite this fact, it wasn’t until Vishvamitra urged Rama strongly that the Lord did away with the fiendish creature.
Now He and His brother were in Janakpur with Vishvamitra, quickly made welcomed guests by the host of the occasion, King Janaka. This ceremony was to be more peaceful; no conflict was foreseen. Kings from around the world were invited to come to try to lift Lord Shiva’s bow. First come, first serve. Whoever could lift the bow first would win. Ah, but this was not an easy contest. The many kings who stepped up to the sacrificial arena already had to walk back to their seats with their heads hanging down. The bow bested them. This meant that the creator, Lord Brahma, had not given them bodies suitable for lifting this heavy bow.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see some advice given to the haughty kings. They are told to basically keep their mouths shut in relation to Rama. They are not qualified to even look at the handsome youth, as His beauty defeats the pride of millions of cupids. The expression relating to moving one’s cheeks references bragging. This is the equivalent of saying that someone is “blowing smoke”, “flapping their gums”, or “running their mouth.” The kings bragging about their own prowess was a wasted effort. Their cheeks were moving, but nothing worthwhile was coming out of their mouths.
The kings were already embarrassed by the bow, so talking further of their own prowess only embarrassed them more. When humbled in such a way, it is best to remain silent and not further degrade oneself. In this case the advice was also valid because Rama would step into the arena and lift the bow without a problem. He was destined to marry Janaka’s daughter Sita, for she is the goddess of fortune. The pair can never be apart, even when it appears to the eyes that they are not together. Sita can never marry anyone else.
The humbling of the kings was beneficial for them, as it is symbolic of what is needed for every spirit soul who lands in the material world. The root cause for the growth of the tree of material existence is the flawed notion that the individual can imitate God and perhaps surpass Him in ability. Only through illusion can one think that they are so great that they brag about their abilities. Even if one is at the top of their field, at some point in their life they required diapers and the help of adults. Skill is given by the creator through the body type awarded at the time of birth, but the exercise of that ability is not perfect. As we cannot see in the dark, we are limited in our sight. We cannot see through walls either, so in this way the material nature has dominance over our abilities.
To be humbled directly by the Supreme Lord is a tremendous boon, because it is better to appreciate His abilities instead of someone else’s or our own. If we remember Rama lifting and breaking the immensely heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva, we will remember that He is the person most worthy of honor. He is the richest, wisest, most beautiful, most renounced, and most famous. In the kingdom of Janakpur that famous day, He showed that He is also the strongest.
The person possessing these features simultaneously becomes worthy of the name Bhagavan. His strength is not displayed only in contests. The strongest person can also provide the best protection, something needed by every person who is constantly tossed by the raging waters of the ocean of material existence. Rama’s strength is available to the surrendered souls when they regularly chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Shri Rama, Raghuvira, is the hero of the Raghu dynasty, and though He is quiet, He is the strongest person. He defends the innocent who try to connect with Him, and through His institution of bhakti-yoga, which is non-different from Him, His protection is available to all.
For hand of Sita many assembled princes contested,
But by weight of Shiva’s bow all were bested.
To boast of prowess then just gums to flap,
And fall further into embarrassment’s trap.
Kings from bow had their confidence shook,
Now at Rama were not worthy even to look.
Dasharatha’s eldest son both strong and silent,
To fulfill destiny to Janakpur He went.
To His devotees He offers His strength,
So to chant His names go to any length.